Farmers are attempting to recover after heavy snow caused severe hardship across counties Antrim, Down and Londonderry. The bulk of the snow fell in late March but large drifts remained in place throughout April due to cold conditions. The average temperature for March was 2.8ºC and the last cold snap on this scale occurred in 1963.
Rescue efforts were co-ordinated by the PSNI and helicopter support was provided by the RAF and Irish Air Corps.
Around 20,000 fallen sheep (of which 15,000 were lambs) and 600 fallen cattle have been reported to the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development for collection. Electricity supplies to around 140,000 homes were disrupted in the early days of the cold weather.
Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill acknowledged the “true community spirit” demonstrated in the affected areas. She added: “I commend the work of local farmers and volunteers who have battled the worst of the elements to assist their neighbours.” A hardship scheme will be finalised when the final number of collected stock is known.
“The past few weeks have been incredibly hard for farmers,” Ulster Farmers’ Union President Harry Sinclair said. “The commitments from the Northern Ireland Executive to cover the cost of fallen stock and to create a hardship fund have been welcome developments during this terrible experience. DARD was quick in organising the fallen stock scheme and collection and it is my hope that they will approach the delivery of the hardship fund in the same way.”